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Another 219K people filed for unemployment last week in Michigan

The state of Michigan experienced another high number of filings for unemployment benefits last week, with more than 219,000 people claiming expanded benefits prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In all, 219,320 people filed for unemployment benefits between April 5-11, down from the 388,554 individuals who filed for benefits the week prior. The total statewide stands at 1,041,015 claims,roughly a quarter of the state's work force.

Nationally, 5.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to 21.8 million Americans who have filed for unemployment. 

Michigan jobless claims

As of Thursday, the state had paid out $745 million in benefits to 725,000 people. The state has struggled to keep pace with the increased demand and added more computer servers and hundreds more staffers to answer phones. 

“We continue to see the deep economic pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation and in Michigan, where a quarter of our workforce has filed for unemployment," said Jeff Donofrio, director for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. "We appreciate the patience of our working families as we process the historic need for benefits.” 

The state has 744,654 active claims, or unemployed individuals who are receiving benefits. The number is more than double the highest active claim total during the Great Recession, which peaked in January 2009 at 363,212.

The federal government has helped states to improve their unemployment services during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said Thursday.

“The department has disbursed more than half a billion dollars in administrative funding to states to help them contend with the surge in claims and burden on their staff and computer systems," Scalia said in a statement, "and additional funding will be released as states apply and meet the requirements set by Congress."

Last month, the state asked claimants to file during off hours between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., then asked individuals to file based on the first letter of their last name. People with a last name starting with A-L file on Monday and Wednesday, while those with a last name from M-Z file on Tuesday and Thursday. 

People who miss their filing date may do so Friday. On Monday, the state's online unemployment system and several other state websites were down for about six hours, officials said. 

Roughly 128,006 filed for unemployment in Michigan between March 15 and March 21 and 304,335 filed for unemployment between March 22 and March 28.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com